Upholstery Repair ( damaged tack edge )

A recurring problem in the repair of upholstered furniture is the degradation of the edges where the upholstery is tacked to the piece. Many upholsterers are not wood workers, so when removing old upholstery you never know what you will find. The picture below is of an Eastlake chair that has been recovered so many times that there is little left to drive tacks in to. You can see that the last man to upholster this chair drove tacks into the face of the rail in order to attach the fabric. I have seen all kinds of attempts to repair this type of damage, every thing from nailing wood to the frame to Bondo auto body filler.

damaged chair edge

The first and most difficult task is to remove all the old tacks in the edge of the rails. Most upholsterers will just leave many of the old and broken tacks in place. The remnant tacks will damage your edge tools when repairing the edge of the rail.

edge routed

A rabbet is cut into the edge of the rail with a router plane and chisels.

edge replaced

Replacement wood glued into the rabbet.

ready for upholstery


About millcrek

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9 Responses to Upholstery Repair ( damaged tack edge )

  1. Is that bendable ply you are using for the replacement tack rail? Or are you steam bending something else? It looks like ply, but the top face of the wood is washed out on the photos so I can’t tell.

    I love Eastlake furniture. I’m not as huge a fan of the curved pieces, like the above chair, but my eye is always drawn to the straight lines and simple details of a larger Eastlake piece any time we’re in an antique store. I have an old Eastlake kitchen chair (in walnut, no less) that my mom found more than 40 years ago. It sits in front of an Eastlake drop-front writing desk, which is made out of something that isn’t walnut; I’ve not been able to identify it properly, but it isn’t gum, either, which is, I believe, the second most common wood for this style.

    I also have a wonderful glass-front adjustable-shelf Eastlake bookcase that my great aunt and uncle gave me. It is my prized piece of furniture. It sits in my bedroom, where I see it first thing every morning, and I use it to store my most prized woodworking books and a few of my better beading tools (the only kind of woodworking tool I’ve allowed myself to collect; probably because it is a smaller, more limiting subject). It is also where I house my shingle proclaiming me a founding member of the 1759 Society (a Guinness-drinker’s club) – Member number 3585, iirc.

    I’m sure my love of the style stems from growing up in a house full of antiques, probably 45% of which are Eastlake. I slept in an antique walnut Eastlake waterfall-style bed (that’s how my mom refers to it, anyway) up through high school. Funny enough, my wife bought one very similar to it when we were just dating. As soon as our son is old enough, that is going to be his bed.

    I’ve always wondered why we never see this style addressed in any woodworking books or magazine articles. I love the nice, straight lines, the reeding (probably why I like beading tools) and fluting, and the simple wheat carvings.

    Hmmm… maybe I should try to translate this style into a box.

  2. shellyleer says:

    You should show us pics of bending the ply and impregnating it with resin. I need a visual here.

    • millcrek says:

      I don’t have any pictures of that process. The next time I get a chance I will take some and post them.

      • Bob jay says:

        Have you ever used hot glue to the tack holes. The hot glue is soft. Would take up some space in the tack hole, so the tack would hold better rather then using bigger size tacks Do you think this is a good idea

      • millcrek says:

        I have not tried hot glue, it might work if you could get it to penetrate deep enough, maybe with a tack iron.

  3. Randy Helton says:

    I have successfully used a technique of forcing Gorilla glue into the tack shredded edge, in cases where it is dried and split, but most of the wood is still in place.
    After removing all the nails and blowing out the dust, I wet the damaged area with water to activate the glue, then apply a nice bead of Gorilla glue, enough that when I mash it in with a putty knife, it covers all the nail holes and splits. I then cover it with a 1/2 inch cardboard tack strip
    and staple it down every 2 or 3 inches with 1/8 inch staples.
    The Gorilla glue froths and expands, and because of the cardboard strip is forced down into the holes and splits, filling and binding the wood nicely. Leave overnight then pull the staples and peel off the cardboard. A chisel helps and a paper thin layer of the cardboard left on is fine.
    Watch out for the expanding glue running out around the cardboard and getting on to your show wood. I sometimes turn the piece upside down to let the runs move away from show wood. Plus it can be cleaned off as it expands out with a cloth and a dab of thinner.

  4. ladywendy0 says:

    Thank you all for the tips. I recently acquired what I believe to be an Eastlake Loveseat not sure how old it is but I figure by the wooden casters which were also ruined beyond repair, it has to be about100 years old. It has the chewed up wood around the tack area. Someone (before me) used 1-inch tacks to reupholster it and completely mutilated the wood. I am happy to have found this article to help me figure out how to fix it.

    I am making a video of the job and I will definitely be putting a link to this article in the description of my video

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